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The following just kind of wrote itself out, perhaps a manifestation of my growing anger with this ridiculous hoax people are buying hook, line, and toilet paper. Or, it might just be another ripoff. The Prince is now considering a national lockdown for two weeks. If that happens, and when it’s over, and nothing has happened but your economy is completely wrecked, then maybe your anger will emerge too.

The Masque of the Red Debt

“And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”

  • Edgar Allan Poe, The Masque of the Red Death, 1842


THE “Red Debt” had for over a century plagued the nation. No scheme had ever been so evil, or so impactful. It reduced to ruination and nothingness the currency. All value it supplanted. The bankrupt corpses of the victims littered the land. All was seemingly lost.

But the Prince Faux Prospero was fat and stupid and insouciant. When half his subjects were aborted, he called forth a host of six-hundred-sixty-six of his friends amongst the rich, the beautiful, the lustful, and the wicked. Away they departed into the far hinterlands, where, upon a stout hillock, the Prince had constructed the super-sized-est of McMansions. Gay was their procession. “Pizza” was in the train. Upon their ensconcement, the wardens locked them within and the world without. The world, they felt, could simply burn. Within they were enriched. Without lurked the “Red Debt.”

After some time so secluded, the Prince hosted for the throng a masquerade of some significance. 

Six were the rooms of the paraded revelry – a literal half-dozen. These safe spaces were arranged in a manner that required drunken meandering to peruse in full. The Prince was crooked in all affairs, even architecturally. First, the chosen guests entered through the white hall of purity, an apartment bereft of all furnishings and accompaniment – a place of no interest to them. Second, was the beige hall of plenty, of honest endeavor, a room largely empty. The third was the hall of celebrity, wherein every surface mirrored the visages of the gleeful guests, all thrilled to see and to think of themselves. The fourth, the theater of lies, was ablaze with telescreens, each pouring forth a cacophony of disinformation to the amusement of the elite. Fifth, there was the harsh chamber of power, all adorned with flags and columns. There, brash music played in military time. The last – the sixth hall – was shrouded in shades of green and gold, which shimmered bewitchingly. This was the Temple of Usury. Here, in the center of the spacious floor, there reposed and hummed a printing press of vast proportion. From this infernal device, issued a continuous stream of cash money, free and easy for the taking. 

Within these strange walls, the Prince and his guests socially distanced themselves from the suffering of The People. Outside, beyond the tall gates and strong walls, a lone man shouted in vain, calling, “End it! Burn it!” None heeded his words or countenance. 

Within, the party raged. All about, one fool after another cavorted in garb befitting their collective, contrived status. Few if any noticed among them the appearance of a visitor. Only upon his passage through several of the halls – slowly lurching forth in much the same fashion as the grave stalks the careless youth – did the assorted oddities of his presence take note. A gasp here, a whisper there, but till forth came the shadowy menace. For all in black was he clad, in a robe without shape. A cold air went before him and lingered in his wake. Silent he was. As was suggested by his blank, sterile mask perhaps he had no mouth with which to speak. It was as if he wore a virus as a veil in a successful bid to out-Shylock Shylock.

When, upon some time, he had processed unto the theater of lies, suddenly there in all screens began to flicker and all went silent. Concurrently, in the chamber of power, abruptly halted the jingoist hymnal. So was alerted the Prince Faux Prospero, who heretofore had minded the music which haunted that chamber. From there, he cried aloud, “Churl! Who mocks our advantage with such spectral Corona? Remove thou medical mask, so we might examine our next victim!” His plea ignored by the advancing figure, the Prince broke to within six feet of him, his silver stang raised high and poised. Yet, the strike became stricken, for, with a shriek, there fell dead the False Prince of Prosperity. 

Six-hundred-sixty-six rainbow-clad mere mortals, elite no more, ran helter-skelter through the halls as, at last, the silent figure reached the Temple of Usury. Standing before the printing press, he raised his mask upon its elastic bands. Then, all beheld the RED DEBT! He had fallen upon them even as they had fallen upon the ranks of the decent and the poor – his way was deception and by it he now did war. His ghastly hand was laid upon the machine. Six-hundred-sixty-six screaming heathens swooned, swayed, and toppled down – as dead as the culture and society they had of late entombed. The screens all went out and the press hummed its final tone. Room by room went as dark as a gravity well the lifeless halls. And through darkness and death, the Red Debt destroyed all.